Church of England set for November 20 vote on women bishops

Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:17pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England is to vote on November 20 on whether to allow the ordination of women bishops, the culmination of more than 10 years of debate on one of the most divisive issues within the Anglican community.

Women already serve as bishops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, but the Church of England, the mother church for the world's 80 million Anglicans, has struggled to reconcile the dispute between reformers and traditionalists on whether to allow them in England.

The vote in the Church's General Synod is expected to be close, but there is reason to believe the proposed legislation will gain the two-thirds majority it needs to pass, said William Fittall, Secretary General to the Synod.

"The expectation in the Church of England and outside the Church is this is going to go through...(but) the arithmetic is tight," Fittall said in a media briefing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has expressed his strong backing for allowing female bishops, but has underlined the need to respect more traditional views also.

The proposed legislation makes provision for parishes which for theological reasons object to senior women clergy.

"Our challenge has been and still is to try and make it good news even for those within our fellowship who have conscientious doubts," Williams said in an essay this month.

About 50 traditionalist priests have left the Church of England, taking up an offer from Pope Benedict to switch to Rome after they became alienated by the prospect of the changes.

Each of the 44 member churches in the Anglican Communion can decide for itself whether to allow women bishops. Many Anglicans in developing countries are strongly opposed to women clergy.   Continued...